Critics Question $13M for Fish Farm


Critics question $13 million for fish farm
SELENA ROSS Staff Reporter
Published January 8, 2014

In April 2012, Cooke Aquaculture was ordered to slaughter hundreds of thousands of virus-infected salmon farmed in Shelburne County.

At the time, the company said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would compensate it for the loss of the fish, the way the agency compensates farmers when sick cattle and other land animals must be killed.

The amount of that compensation was revealed this week: $13million, or roughly $13 per fish, according to the CBC, which filed a freedom of information request with the agency.

The details of similar past payments have generally not been made public.

Three Gray Aqua fish farms in Newfoundland were culled in recent years, but the federal compensation scale left a lot of latitude, reported the Telegram in St. John’s, N.L.

Total compensation for more than a million fish could have been anywhere from about $4million to a maximum of $37.5million, the newspaper reported. The federal agency would not reveal the number, citing the Privacy Act.

On Wednesday, critics of open-pen aquaculture said they found the $13-million payout to Cooke high and worried it sent the wrong message to the company.

Fish diseases can spread to wild populations more easily than diseases tend to spread outside land farms, and aquaculture companies should be encouraged to avoid that risk, said Andrew Gage, a British Columbia environmental lawyer.

“Here we have the taxpayers essentially subsidizing (aquaculture companies) to make that concern more manageable for industry,” he said.

A Cooke spokeswoman said Wednesday the company takes disease risk seriously.

“Our company has been proactive and removed fish voluntarily without waiting for a CFIA order and covered the cost ourselves because it was the right thing to do,” said Nell Halse.

In 2013, Cooke received no compensation for infectious salmon anemia losses, and there are no positive cases of the disease in Nova Scotia today, she said.

Queens-Shelburne MLA Sterling Belliveau said he sees no problem with the payout and believes the risk to wild fish populations is “minimal.”

“I mean, if you look at the auto industry, there was money put into that when the industry was struggling. It’s no different whether it’s the auto industry, or land-based industry, or fisheries.”